ABOUT 2022-03-23T16:48:47-07:00

At the interface of watersheds and the open ocean.

The Coastal Science and Policy Program (CSP) at the University of California Santa Cruz offers a two-year Master of Science and a Ph.D. Designated Emphasis. These degrees prepare rising leaders from diverse backgrounds to identify, innovate and advance scalable and socially just solutions to coastal sustainability challenges. The program emphasizes collaborations with practitioners, in real-world settings, working to solve some of today’s most wicked social-environmental problems from watersheds to the open ocean.

For the M.S. degree, training includes one year based at the UC Santa Cruz campus taking an interdisciplinary set of courses and seminars designed to understand scientific and policy dimensions and build leadership, innovation, communication and networking skills to leverage change on coastal and ocean issues. In the summer following their first year and during the second year of the program, students work full time with a practitioner partner to undertake an individual capstone project to address a specific problem or opportunity. Each student and their practitioner partner, along with a faculty advisor, co-design the capstone project to address an opportunity of keen interest to the student and that addresses a direct need of the partner organization. Our combination of training and experience-based learning prepares students for impactful careers applying multifaceted approaches to advance sustainable and productive ecosystems, coastal and watershed communities, industries and institutions. Graduates of this program will help ensure that innovative interdisciplinary knowledge and diverse insights inform real-world solutions and create measurable and scalable change.

The program provides exceptional investment in its students including:

  • Small cohorts to facilitate personalized mentoring and community cohesion
  • Intensive co-mentoring by program faculty and practitioner partners
  • Career development staff, resources and network of potential employers
  • Need-based financial support for one to two years

The program seeks national and international individuals with demonstrated experience and passion for coastal science and policy who seek to become the next generation of coastal science and policy leaders. To learn more about the application process click here.

Our Mission

The interdisciplinary graduate program in Coastal Science & Policy at UC Santa Cruz prepares students to design and implement solutions to the complex social, ecological, and technological problems facing the world’s coastal communities and ecosystems.

Our Progress by the Numbers

The Coastal Science and Policy Program is making great progress on meeting our goals:

18% Admit rate (278 applicants to date; ~70 applicants per year)

Admitted Student Body:

  • 17 Countries Represented
  • 51% International 49% Domestic
  • Diverse, Inclusive Student Body: 70% of all students are persons of color and 21.6% of US students are Black, Indigenous, or Persons of Color
  • All of our students have or enter with 2-10 years of Sustainability Experience

57% fully funded for two years-tuition, fees, living stipend
41% partially funded
Over $710,000 in student self-generated funding
Over $3.4M in program raised funding

Diversity, Equity & Inclusivity Values

Coasts, from land to the sea, are ground zero for sustainability challenges. Climate change is multiplying social and environmental vulnerabilities of coastal communities. Approximately 40% of Americans living in coastal counties fall into an elevated coastal hazard risk category. These include children, the elderly, households where English isn’t the primary language, and those in poverty. Communities of color and other vulnerable populations are on the front lines of these challenges and bring unique perspectives and talents to develop effective, just, and scalable solutions.

The need for inspiring leaders who innovate, implement, and champion effective solutions to today’s biggest environmental and social challenges has never been greater. The Coastal Science and Policy program believes that we need leaders who reflect the full diversity of our communities in order to find solutions that are effective, socially just, and equitable. The Coastal Science and Policy program is making a concerted effort to provide inclusive training to our students who, as a result of this training, graduate well-equipped to take on leadership positions and contribute perspectives from the full range of society’s diversity (including, but not limited to, ethnic, racial, socioeconomic, and gender).

CSP seeks to attract students, faculty and staff who reflect varied perspectives of diverse people, whether in terms of their disciplinary expertise, tradition, heritage, race, ethnicity, sex, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, socioeconomic status, disability status, or experience. We believe in the inherent value of diversity and in its power to help us creatively and effectively pursue our mission.

For questions about the program, contact CSP staff at csp@ucsc.edu.


The Coastal Science and Policy Program would like to acknowledge that the land on which we gather for our courses and programs is the traditional and unceded territory of the Uypi Tribe of the Awaswas Nation. Today these lands are represented by the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band who are the descendants of the Awaswas and Mutsun Nations whose ancestors were taken to Mission Santa Cruz and Mission San Juan Bautista during Spanish colonization of the Central Coast. Today, the Amah Mutsun are working hard to fulfill their obligation to the Creator to care for and steward Mother Earth and all living things through relearning efforts and the Amah Mutsun Land Trust (The above acknowledgement has been modified from a statement developed by the tribal chairperson of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, in collaboration with Rick Flores).

Our location on Monterey Bay and UCSC’s Coastal Research Campus (five kilometers from UCSC’s main campus), allows the CSP graduate program to conduct groundbreaking collaborative research and offers students unique educational opportunities. CSP students and researchers have ready access to the resources of a major research university, as well as state and federal agencies and non-governmental organizations that are co-located on the Coastal Research Campus. These institutional partners reflect the diversity of practitioners in the greater Monterey, Salinas and Silicon Valleys, and San Francisco Bay areas. As members of the CSP program, students can take advantage of local opportunities or apply their interests to coastal regions (from watersheds to the open ocean) elsewhere in the world.

The rich diversity of coastal land, watersheds, and marine environments support forestry, agriculture and fisheries, rural and urban communities, industries and governments that create and sustain the unique qualities of coastal zones and their peoples around the world.


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